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Are You a Mid-Century Modern Furniture Fan?

July 9, 2021

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Interior design of eames chair on modern room

The enduring popularity of mid-century modern furniture is based on many factors. It gives us clean lines, gentle organic curves, and a love of different materials and designers that are still idolized, even today. Just one look at the Eames chair and ottoman pictured above and you’ll understand why.

But just what is mid-century furniture? The term usually applies to a furniture style developed in the early 20th century but that was adapted and gained worldwide attention after World War II. Its lines, curves and shapes, blend flowing designs with highly varied textures, materials and colors. This simple design option has become all the rage among people who want to be on the cutting edge of new decorating trends, thanks to its elegant simplicity and timeless aesthetic. Some of the characteristics that define this style are:

  • Simplistic: Ornate elements are used sparingly, if at all.
  • Functional: Abides by architect Louis Sullivan’s philosophy, “Form follows function.”
  • Organic: Uses shapes found in nature that tend to lead to soft curves.
  • Geometric: Utilizes basic shapes for clean lines and sleek edges.
  • Diverse: Embraces a large range of materials and colors

The Popularity of Buying Second Hand

There are many reasons to shop for authentic mid-century modern furniture. In fact, the trend of shopping for secondhand furniture has been growing, and for very good reasons. Buying used goods cuts down on manufacturing demands and keeps more items out of our overgrown landfills. Because a large amount of man-made goods are routinely thrown away, re-using them can actually save the Earth, giving a longer life to common household items by allowing another family to use them.

The flow of second-hand giving goes both ways. Items or clothes you no longer use can be donated to a local consignment shop and offered up to another homeowner who may be searching for that exact item. The act of recycling not only enables us to feel good about our actions but also keeps money in the local economy, while supporting the green living movement.

Mid-century style can easily be incorporated into any Santa Barbara homeowner’s everyday life with furniture. But buying great pieces isn’t always easy. While some big box retailers sell amazing replicas, there are a ton of mid-century modern originals that obsessives are scoring off Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, at local yard sales, at antique consignment and thrift stores or even online. Whether you’re looking for original mid-century furniture pieces or the best replicas, here are some of the best places to shop:

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores have been around since the turn of the 20th century but were not an established industry until the 1940s when the London-based Red Cross and Oxfam laid the foundation on how the industry would develop. Today, thrifting has become popular thanks to social media influencers who share their finds online which, in turn, creates a demand for unique secondhand goods. And for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Santa Barbara, we not only get to enjoy the perfect Mediterranean weather and miles of white sandy beaches, but we also have many amazing thrift stores where we can score that one-of-a-kind item.

READ: How to Decorate Your Mid-century Modern Home

There are nearly 76,000 adults living in Santa Barbara, and more than 17,000 of them are seniors. Many local seniors are sitting on a gold mine of mid-century furniture, which they end up donating to local thrift stores. If you have ever experienced the thrill of finding a perfect piece of mid-century modern furniture at a thrift store, then you know the thrill of the find.

Santa Barbara’s Unity Shoppe is the perfect example of a local store where you can find authentic mid-century gems. But that’s not the only reason to shop there. Your cash helps supplement basic necessities for local people who don’t have the ability to pay their rent and utilities. The Unity Shoppe also offers office and computer skills classes, merchandising, inventory control and customer relations, preparing people in need of future job opportunities.

READ: Timeless Interior Design Trends

Nearly 18,000 people are referred to this unique charity yearly by more than 300 non-profit agencies, churches, schools and hospitals. They also operate a year-round “Free” grocery and clothing store so needy people can shop with dignity for their basic needs. More than $2 million in merchandise is distributed annually.

modern living a room with a dining zone 3D

The good work the Unity Shoppe offers our community is not the only reason to thrift. Here are several more:

  • Thrift stores help the community
    Not only are many of the local thrift stores like our Unity Shoppe run by charitable organizations, but they also use their retail platform to provide other much-needed services to the community. Shopping at these stores keeps them in business and allows these important services to keep going.
  • Thrift stores keep more out of landfills
    Obviously, the very idea of a secondhand store is eco-friendly. Thrift stores are like humanity’s hand-me-downs. Someone scratches your back, you scratch someone else’s back and so on and so on.
  • Thrift stores transport you to another time
    Especially for mid-century fans who can find all sorts of goodies for their collections.
  • They make you appreciate how far technology has come
    You’ll leave feeling thankful that you don’t live in a time where big, bulky computer monitors, CD Walkmans, and the original PlayStation ruled the day.
  • You never know what you might find
    There’s something thrilling about entering a thrift shop. It starts when you walk in and realize the place is packed with potential. If a great time for you is dropping into a store of once-owned goods with no idea what you’re looking for, then thrift shopping is for you. Endless possibilities and endless questions. Who owned this before? WHY? What in the world is this? Is this amazing or is this awful?
Interior of mid-century modern living room 3d render

Consignment Stores

Here in Santa Barbara, we have a number of excellent consignment stores, too. These stores sell secondhand items on behalf of the original owner, who receives a percentage of the sales price. Here are some excellent ones to check out for mid-century nuggets:

  • Jones Robin Appraisal
    Serving Santa Barbara since 1969, this place is known for handling quality artifacts and antiques. As a member of the International Society of Appraisers, they also offer an appraisal service and estate liquidations. If you visit immediately after they’ve received items from a local estate, you’ll be amazed at what you can find.
  • The Blue Door
    If you even mention consignment/vintage/antique shopping in Santa Barbara, you’re sure to get recommendations to visit The Blue Door. Located in the Funk Zone and standing tall with three floors of inventory, the store combines new and vintage home items that will pique any shopper’s interest. Plus, with new items arriving every day, you’re sure to find something unique to bring home with you.
  • Summerland Antique Collective
    If you’re looking for some serious mid-century luxury items for your home and outdoor space, look no further than Summerland Antique Collective. Specializing in fine designer pieces and unique collectibles, the shop prides itself on offering a wide range of styles. Whether you’re looking to redecorate or just browse, this spot is definitely worth a stop in Summerland.
  • The Art of Consignment
    Specializing in hand-selected top-quality and tasteful furniture, home goods and décor, the inventory at this shop features second-hand items from well-known brand names and manufacturers. This store regularly accepts donations, consignments, and on-the-spot sales, so the inventory is always expanding. 

Antique Stores

There are a lot of reasons to buy antique and vintage items, not the least of which is we get to rediscover parts of the past while learning about history in ways that can be quite surprising. Antiques and collectibles connect you to every era no matter which year you were born. And there are many fine antique stores in Santa Barbara. Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • The Sacred Space
    The Sacred Space is Summerland's secret oasis. It is a short commute from Santa Barbara, but it feels like an international getaway. From the moment you step onto the property, you’ll feel like you’re being transported into a spiritual sanctuary. The store is filled with lots of one-of-a-kind treasures, including some mid-century beauties.
  • Antique Alley
    The Antique Alley started at the Santa Barbara swap meet in the 1980’s. The family-owned business on State Street features collections from more than 25 vendors.
  • The Salvage Company
    Tucked down an alley off Anacapa Street and De la Guerra Plaza, The Salvage Company offers a beautifully curated collection of art, antiques, antique rugs and historical architectural salvage. This is the real deal and we're lucky to have it here in it community. Besides mid-century modern furniture, you are likely to find early California and European landscape paintings, hand-forged ironwork, as well as ethnographic and Asian antiques.
  • Josephine's Antiques & Gallery
    Josephine and her antique gallery are a true Montecito treasure. A hidden gem for interior designers, you’re certain to find some amazing mid-century collectibles to add to your collection.

READ: Social Media Influence on Interior Design in Santa Barbara and Montecito 

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace

One of the most popular functions on Craigslist is buying and selling household furniture. Now, in addition, there’s Facebook Marketplace, a service for users who want to buy and sell items. These sites can be valuable places to find mid-century modern furniture. However, shoppers beware: to avoid scams, read listings critically and use the resources available to you.

Yard Sales

Some people love garage sales; others pass by without a second thought, writing them off as a jumble of other people's trash. If you’re in that second group, you’ve been missing out on a chance to score some incredible deals. While not every garage sale is a treasure trove, there are plenty of bargains to be had, and even better, unique opportunities you won’t find on the big-store shelves. 

To stay in the know of local yard sales, there’s a website you can join called Yard Sale Search. More than one million subscribers use this tool to find the best sales in their area. The good news is that it’s absolutely free to join and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Finding good deals on mid-century furniture online can be migraine-inducing, but once you cut through the clutter, there are a handful of tried-and-true sites that actually provide a good selection of furniture from all decades as well as unique home decor options.

READ: The Feng Shui House: Creating Balance and Flow in Your Santa Barbara Home 

Big Box Retailers

Believe it or not, big-box retailers are the place to go when you don’t have time to hunt for pieces in antique or consignment stores. The mid-century modern collections at Target and West Elm can provide good value for those who don’t mind new replicas of the originals. Other online shops that feature mid-century-inspired pieces are JoybirdArticle, and AllModern. You can even turn to places like IkeaeBay, and Amazon for decent recreations.

If you are looking for a mid-century home for all your mid-century modern furniture, there’s just one place to go: my portfolio of fine properties in the area. I’ll search the area to find you the mid-century home of your dreams. Just give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at I can also sell your existing property at the same time.

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“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

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- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

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“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

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